Building_on_a_Budget

Five starting points for Giant decks.... Which will you choose?

Los Señores Gigantes! (Part 1 of 2)

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The letter H!ello everyone, and welcome back to Building on a Budget, the magicthegathering.com column dedicated to building decks that cost 30 tickets or less! A few weeks ago, I wrote an article highlighting a good cross-section of underutilized budget cards. One recurring theme was that Giants, as a tribe, were just being flat-out ignored.

Giants are primarily a red-white tribe, so any Giant deck we build is going to be red, white or red-white. Usually, rare dual lands are out of the price range of a budget deck. Not so for Giants! Ancient Amphitheater usually trades for half a ticket online, so you can get a full playset for the steal of just 2 tickets. To put this in perspective: a single Gilt-Leaf Palace or Wanderwine Hub will run you more than an entire playset of the Giant land!

This makes for an excellent opportunity to start out a Giant deck with a great mana-fixer. Giants, by design, are a tribe of slow, large dudes with sometimes splashy effects. For the faster tribes, it is absolutely necessary to have your first land come into play untapped (Kithkin, I'm looking at you!). For Giants, it's not going to be as bad to play a tapped Amphitheater—unless you're splashing another tribe, you aren't going to have a one-drop creature.

Let's take a look at the available Giants in Standard (at least, the ones that we'd want to consider using!). I've listed ticket prices, along with notable non-Giant creature types and tribal effects, next to each one.

Arbiter of Knollridge (0.15)
Avian Changeling (Warrior)
Blind-Spot Giant (Warrior)
Brighthearth Banneret (reduce mana cost of Warriors)
Borderland Behemoth (0.25) (Warrior)
Brion Stoutarm (0.5) (Warrior)
Changeling Berserker (Warrior)
Chronosavant (0.15)
Cloudgoat Ranger (Warrior)
Countryside Crusher (3.25) (Warrior)
Desolation Giant (0.3)
Feudkiller's Verdict (0.75) (Warrior)
Fire-Belly Changeling (Warrior)
Giant Harbinger 
Hamletback Goliath (0.25) (Warrior)
Hammerheim Deadeye (Warrior)
Hearthcage Giant (Warrior)
Jötun Grunt (0.5) (Soldier)
Jötun Owl Keeper
Kithkin Greatheart
Lovisa Coldeyes (1) (Barbarians, Warriors, and Berserkers get +2/+2 and have haste)
Mirror Entity (1.5) (Warrior)
Mutavault (20)
Stinkdrinker Daredevil (Reduce mana cost of Giants)
Stonehewer Giant (0.33) (Warrior)
Sunrise Sovereign (0.25) (Warrior)
Taurean Mauler (2) (Warrior)
Thundercloud Shaman
Wandering Graybeard

Why is it important which Giants are Warriors? As I mentioned earlier, Giants are the slow tribe. Not counting changelings, Giants start at three mana (Countryside Crusher / Blind-Spot Giant) and regularly hit the six to eight mana range (Arbiter of Knollridge / Borderland Behemoth / Chronosavant / etc). There are two cards on-theme which can grant haste to Giants, speeding up their attack by a full turn: Obsidian Battle-Axe and Lovisa Coldeyes. Both give a 2-point boost to power in addition to haste.

Giants are mainly designed for attacking, but there are a surprising number of control-oriented cards in the tribe. Desolation Giant is a budget Wrath of God variant (and one that leaves you with a 3/3 creature). Wandering Graybeard, Feudkiller's Verdict, Brion Stoutarm and Arbiter of Knollridge don't just gain you life—they gain you a GIANT amount of life! (Which, honestly, was probably the original intention of the designers. Let little tribes gain little life. Let big tribes gain big life!) Thundercloud Shaman is another board-sweeping choice, and three Giants (Cloudgoat Ranger, Hearthcage Giant, and Jötun Owl Keeper) bring other creatures to the board with them.

One great aspect of Giants is that the majority of them have a very high toughness. This allows them to survive damage-based board sweeping effects that would easily kill other tribes—Sulfurous Blast and Pyroclasm become tools to allow for an alpha strike against a clear board, rather than just mere weenie removal. Austere Command's less-than-four clearing effect leaves you with your higher-cost Giants, if need be. Fatal Frenzy goes from "deal double" to living up to its name—likely fatal damage on a huge Giant.

Given the list of Giants above, there are quite a number of possible builds. I'm going to present five of them below, and run a vote at the end of the column. The winning choice is the deck we'll start as the evolution for the Giant deck (in two weeks)! In the meanwhile, all of these decks are great ideas for where you could start with a budget Giants deck, and given how cheap they are right now, why the heck not?

Giant Deck #1: Ajani and his Mighty Troops


Ticket Cost: 15.6 tickets total

In this first build, you are looking to have Giants be the top end of your curve, supplemented with earlier guys who either are Giants (Fire-Belly Changeling) or get benefits from Giants (Kithkin Greatheart). Jötun Owl Keeper and Cloudgoat Ranger provide ways to put multiple creatures on the board at once, which in turn fuels both Windbrisk Heights (free spells!) or Ajani's second ability (putting +1/+1 counters on multiple creatures). This deck has a number of creatures with good power-to-cost ratios, many of whom are conditionally efficient:

Kithkin Greatheart: 3 power for two mana
Fire-Belly Changeling: 3 power for two mana
Blind-Spot Giant: 4 power for three mana
Jotun Owl Keeper: 3 power for three mana
Brion Stoutarm: 4 power for four mana
Cloudgoat Ranger: 6 power for five mana

Incinerate and Lash Out provide ways to both remove early blocking creatures, and potentially finish off an opponent after an early rush. Avian Changeling gives a little bit of air support (along with any birds produced by the Owl Keeper). Now that Shadowmoor is available online, I expect to fit Spectral Procession in here somehow! Mirror Entity is another consideration for this deck, but keep in mind that most of the creatures here already are pretty large on their own!

Giant Deck #2: Big Guys, Big Discounts


Ticket Cost: 13.1 tickets total

Big Guys, Big Discounts uses Brighthearth Banneret and Stinkdrinker Daredevil, along with Mind Stone, to power out some truly massive monsters in the early turns of the game. If you get a two-drop accelerant and a Daredevil on turn three, you are capable of dropping your seven-drop guys on turn four. Hamletback Goliath, anyone? And even if you don't get your Stinkdrinker Daredevil, the deck is set up to deal with early-game threats so you don't get run over immediately—Incinerate, Oblivion Ring and Austere Command take care of small guys just like that. Since this deck has a slower build-up, we can run multiple Vivid lands, to help offset double-white and double-red mana requirements on spells. Fatal Frenzy is present, because a Borderland Behemoth, when Frenzied, will likely be 16-24 points of trample damage coming upside a opponent's soon-to-be-dead head!

Giant Deck #3: Control of the Court


Ticket Cost: 15.35 tickets total

Want to clear the board of everything your opponent drops? Use multiple budget Wrath of God effects—Desolation Giant, Thundercloud Shaman, Pyroclasm, Austere Command, and Sulfurous Blast—to make sure the board is clear for your big beaters! Giant Harbinger fetches Thundercloud Shaman, or Desolation Giant, or the one-of Arbiter of Knollridge, just in case you are lower than your opponent on life. Feudkiller's Verdict and Wandering Graybeard help keep your life strong, even in the face of an early beating.

Giant Deck #4: Stonehewer's Many Arms of Many Arms

Ticket Cost: 19.2 tickets total

This version of the Giant deck centers around Stonehewer Giant and its ability to tutor equipment straight into play. Since Stonehewer Giant is essential, I've started the deck with both Giant Harbinger to go get him, and Resurrection to bring him back if he dies. This deck sports a foursome of Obsidian Battle-Axe and Loxodon Warhammer, as they are the best pieces of equipment for a deck spouting Warriors in Standard. In addition, I've added a smattering of Cloak and Dagger and Whispersilk Cloak to protect Stonehewer Giant, and Thornbite Staff and Diviner's Wand for spot removal and evasion, respectively.

In addition, I'm running Cloudgoat Ranger in this deck, because all of the token creatures it generates would work well with equipment—instead of being 1/1s, they are going to be 3/2s or 4/1 trampling lifelinkers or Jayemdae Tomes—it's essentially making my own monster outside of the Simic tribe!

Since this deck also runs quite a few Vivid lands, I was considering a blue splash for Momentary Blink—this would let me protect Stonehewer Giant from removal and reset Cloudgoat Ranger with three more token creatures. If this deck went to blue, I'd also have to explore which blue cards would work well in an equipment-based Giants deck!

Giant Deck #5: When Warriors Attack!

Ticket Cost: 18.75 tickets total

There are three aggro decks in this column (which makes sense, because Giants are primarily an aggressive tribe). This one is the mid-range deck—it gets going around turns three and four but comes out strong and fast due to haste and lords. Obsidian Battle-Axe is both a granter of haste and a lord—any Warrior it equips will get +2/+1 in addition to haste, making them frightful indeed! Lovisa Coldeyes also pumps up most of the creatures in this deck with an additional +2/+2 and haste. This deck is half Giant Warriors and half non-Giant Warriors, and is virtually a mono-red deck (the exception is the splash for Brion Stoutarm, who, as a 4/4 lifelink for four, finds his way into a lot of Giant decks!).

Also interesting to note is that Ghitu Encampment is a Warrior, and while it won't get a bonus from the Battle Axe (unless you equip it after activiating it), it will get the bonus from Lovisa.

So, you've seen the five different budget Giant decks above! Which one would you most like to see evolved in this column?

 Which Giant deck do you want to see evolved in this column?  
Ajani and his Mighty Troops
Big Guys, Big Discounts
Control of the Court
Stonehewer's Many Arms of Many Arms
When Warriors Attack!

I look forward to seeing which deck is your first choice! And don't just vote—chime in on the forums and let your voices be heard by the rest of the community! Think I've overlooked a card that should have been included in one of these decks? Let me know in the forums as well!

Here's a cost breakdown (in tickets) of cards used in this week's deck that weren't listed in the Creatures section:

Ajani Goldmane (1.5)
Austere Command (1)
Chandra Nalaar (1)
Disenchant (0.2)
Fatal Frenzy (0.5)
Incinerate (0.4)
Loxodon Warhammer (2.5)
Mind Stone (0.75)
Obsidian Battle-Axe (0.33) (Warrior)
Pyroclasm (0.25)
Windbrisk Heights (1)

(The rest were all less than one-tenth of a ticket each.)

Next week, we'll see the results of this poll and I'll start evolving the Giant deck of choice for the column two weeks from now. Next week's column? Let's just say that we're going to a place where everything is the opposite of Legions and it's in exactly the way you expect. See you all in seven!

Ben

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